Retired assistant principal revamps Denyse Wharf waterfront lab plan
Thomas Greene is launching his Plan B.
Unfazed by the failure of his dream to have the city build a marine science lab on a Revolutionary-era wharf at the foot of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, Greene, a retired Fort Hamilton High School assistant principal, is adjusting his proposal.
Greene is now taking his proposal off the wharf and is setting his sights on a piece of property near the wharf to build what he is calling a “Marine EcoLab.”
The idea is to set up a “Science on Shore” program to provide an educational facility where students can study “the perils of pollution and the need to learn about alternative energy to counter the looming menace of global warming,” Greene said in a statement.
In addition to serving as an assistant principal, Greene taught science at Fort Hamilton High School for many years.
His previous proposal involved building a marine science lab on Denyse Wharf, a pier dating back to the 18th century that is owned by the U.S. Army and is part of the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge.
Greene envisioned a waterfront lab where students from all over the city could come and conduct waterfront experiments and study marine life.
Despite early support from state Sen. Marty Golden, who provided funding for a feasibility study in the 1990s, and the fact that the U.S. Army had expressed willingness to lease the pier to the city for educational purposes for $1 a year, the marine science lab idea never took off.
Among the obstacles was rejection of the proposal by the New York City Department of Education.
At one point, he announced that he was changing his plan and would seek to construct the marine science lab on a barge off Denyse Wharf, not on the wharf itself. Still, he found no takers.
But Greene kept on advocating. He organized an ad-hoc group called Friends of Denyse Wharf and organized twice yearly clean-ups of the pier, bringing in groups of students to clear the area of old tires, seaweed and other types of debris to show officials that he was serious.
The most recent clean-up took place on Oct. 14. Dozens of volunteers cleared away driftwood, plastics, glass, old tires and scrap metal. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection provided Greene with a dumpster in which to place the trash.
Greene said his new dream spot, just off Denyse Wharf, falls under the jurisdiction of the New York City Parks Department, although the Army’s permission would be required to set foot on the nearby beach.
“The Marine EcoLab will provide students with inquiry-based hands-on lab activities related to these real-world problems, while at the same time giving them the lab skills and knowledge needed for success in the later grades,” Greene stated.
Greene and the Friends of Denyse Wharf have submitted a new proposal to Community Board 10, local elected officials, Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Parks Department and the Department of Education.
Bay Ridge residents might remember Greene as the man who advocated for the construction of an indoor pool at Fort Hamilton High School for many years. He faced an uphill fight in that effort, too. But the pool was built. It opened two decades ago and is named the Thomas F. Greene Natatorium.
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